From the outset, the premise of Driver: San Francisco
sounds stupid: you play as a cop who has the ability to possess anyone driving a car, except not really, because he's actually comatose following a car crash. However, if you're willing to accept that bit of crazy, the game works remarkably well.
A game is only as good as its core mechanics, and shifting is fluid, fun, and surprisingly intuitive; it's easy to get the hang of it after just a few minutes of using it. This is helped by the tutorials, as they're Tanner exploring the uses of shifting just as much as you are. The missions — and there are a lot
of them — use shifting as much as possible to come up with some really creative ideas like defending an armored car from mobsters or destroying tanker trucks in a highway chase. The handling is a bit odd, but it leads to some impressive drifts once you get used to it. Police chases, whether you're the chaser or chasee, are fast-paced and easy to start, providing a quick diversion if you ever get bored.
The game's writing is impressive, with the style of the 70s all over the place. The main plot is nothing particularly special, but it's interesting enough. However, the relatively light-hearted tone might turn off players looking for something more serious. Tanner himself is incredibly likable because his personality is basically that of the average player's: giddy about being able to seize control of any car at any time and nonchalant about anyone unlucky enough to be in the passenger's seat. Speaking of passengers, there are enough of them that Tanner's conversations with them will rarely be repeated. They range from a transgendered cop to someone who always talks like a pirate to an crazy conspiracy theorist to a blind man who realizes that Tanner's taken over his wife's body to one of those insufferable just-got-his-learner's-permit teens who points out all of your mistakes to a melodramatic woman straight out of a Spanish telenovela who's poisoned her husband to... you get the idea. All of these people also have enough individual lines that they won't repeat themselves.
Driver: San Francisco
is a bit unusual, but it somehow manages to get everything to click. The gameplay is smooth, the writing is solid, and the style caps everything off. If you're interested in driving games, give this one a try.